We all feel blue at times, it would be impossible not to living in a fallen world but there are many people who are walking wounded through their days and this truly breaks my heart. When I was 18 I was diagnosed with depression, it didn’t start at that age it was actually classified as childhood-adolescent onset depression. This stuck with me until I left university, and by that time I had experienced 3 or 4 serious episodes of depression. Leaving university I decided that I was tired of all the pills I was taking and so began to look at new ways of managing and hopefully treating the depression and with God’s help the episodes of depression diminished.
Although I still experience ‘blue’ days, I have developed tools that help me not to stay there for very long, so this post is really a breakdown of things I’ve found to make the sun shine more brightly in my life.
What is depression?
A depressive episode is diagnosed if at least two out of three core symptoms have been experienced for most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks. These core symptoms are:
- Low mood
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Lack of interest or enjoyment in life
Depression seems to be the rising norm, to such an extent that the World Health Organisation forecasts that by 2020 depression will be the second leading contributor to the global burden of disease. God doesn’t want us to live a life of depression because He said that He left us His Shalom and fullness of life, so here are 9 ways to fight back the blues and start experiencing that peace and life that the Messiah left for us.
1. Avoid escapism – I used to be addicted to romance novels and any type of fictional TV show and spend a lot of my time glued to the screen or absorbed in the life of make-believe characters. I found that whilst I was there I was OK but as soon I came back into the real world I felt really low. Why? Because my life wasn’t as perfect, bright, colourful or loving as those characters on the screen or in the book. It sounds sad I know but this was the ‘seed’ that was being planted in me and so my thought life and my emotional life was affected by the words I was hearing or reading (see post on Words as seeds). God quickly showed me that I needed to leave behind the fantasy worlds that had nothing to do with His own perfect perspective but man’s imperfect one, and when I did so (although extremely difficult to do) I found that it had a positive affect on my overall well-being.
2. Avoid/manage your triggers – there are things that we will experience, see, hear and do which will act as triggers for us, the key is to begin to find the triggers and then limit the impact they have on us. Our triggers could be anything: watching the news, being around particular friends or family members, watching violent or scary programs, coming home to a pile of bills every day. An example from my life was watching crime dramas, I loved them particularly the humourous types such as Monk or The Mentalist. I used to justify watching it to myself saying I was only interested in the humour of the characters but I couldn’t escape what my eyes were seeing… people killing other people! I found out very quickly that this grieved my inner man and so I had to stop watching crime shows of any kind and when I did I felt better!
3. Reward/ treat self – sometimes it’s not possible to avoid our triggers completely but if that is the case we need to think of realistic yet creative ways of managing them e.g. changing when and how you read through mail could be an idea. This could be a great time to bring in rewards and treats for yourself, if possible doing something which gives pleasure during or before reading the mail to nullify the negative impact that this will have on our mood.
Outside of acting as a buffer, it is important for us to regularly reward and treat ourselves even if it’s just for making it through the day. When we know that there is a nice treat further along in the day, this gives us the added boost of motivation to keep on going one step at a time. In a similar vein do not be too hard on yourself, beat yourself or attempt to punish yourself for not getting things right/done or not having certain things, this is a symptom of self-hate which I will touch upon next.
4. Spending quality time with ourselves – just like there are things which have an adverse effect on our inner man, there are certain things which have a positive effect, the key is to find out what things make your soul smile. This reminds me of a very big lesson God taught me about learning to self-love. Often people who experience depression do not know how to self-love but are great at self-hate so God told me to get a hobby so that I could spend some quality time with myself. I listened to an interesting interview with medical Doctor and Dr Caroline Leaf and Sid Roth on ‘It’s Supernatural‘, she explains when we tap into what makes our soul smile (paraphrasing here) and spend time doing it then not only do we become more happier but we also improve in our weaker areas! She gives the example of a failing student who everyone believed was a no-hoper but when they tapped in and could practice what made their soul smiled, they shone in their academics and personal relationships. Watch the interview for more interesting insights and then find what makes your soul smile.
5. Get out of the house – people who experience depression find it hard to get out of bed let alone the house, but when you are in a dark place it is crucial to get out of the house, why? Because you need your dose of Vitamin D which our skin makes during exposure with UVB rays of the sun. Depressive symptoms tend to increase during the winter months, particularly in people with lower Vitamin D levels. Apparently the darker you are the more time you need to spend outdoors!!!
6. Be around positive people – do you have people who make you smile, who show you love and affection, who support and encourage you when you feel low, who don’t spend their time finger-pointing or judging you when you get things wrong? Yes? Good. No? Research shows that healthy support systems are very beneficial for people with any type of health concern whether physical, spiritual, mental or emotional. It took me ages to find a spiritual family but I am so blessed by them, and what is even better is that God has given them to me both on and offline! Being around positive supportive people changes you because it makes you more positive and supportive of others too.
7. Cry/shout it out – when I taught personality types in psychology I used to say to my students that Type A for Anxiety, Type C for Cancer and Type D for Depression. According to research, people with a Type D personality have the tendency to experience increased negative emotions and tend not to share these emotions with others, because of fear of rejection or disapproval; they feel bad a lot and hold it all in. This is very unhealthy because not only is it associated with depression but imagine all those toxic emotions and thoughts being held in your body!
To be honest I think that the best person to take your burdens to is God, the Bible says that He really does care for us. He doesn’t get overwhelmed by our problems, He knows we hurt and that life can be a struggle, He wants us to speak to Him, and if need be cry and shout it out as long as we get it out of us and give it over to Him. I don’t know about you but I feel a lot better after a good cry!
8. Praise God – there is a song, you might know it, the lyrics are:
There is a sweet anointing in the sanctuary
There is a stillness in the atmosphere
Oh come lay down the burdens you have carried
For in this sanctuary
God is here.
Lyrics by Karen Clark (God is Here)
When we praise God something beautiful happens, He comes down and dwells in the midst of us:
But you are holy, O you (God) that inhabits the praises of Israel. Psalm 22: 3
When God is amongst us (Immanuel) we begin to experience and live in the fullness of joy and abundance of shalom which He promises is made available to use.
In the presence of God there is fullness of joy, at your right hand there are pleasures forever more. Psalm 16: 11
9. Be a good steward of your body – neglecting physical needs is another characteristic of someone who doesn’t value themselves or is trying to punish themselves, a problem with this is our mood is linked to how well we look after our body. What we consume and our activity levels have an affect on our body and our emotions plus the Bible tells us that our body’s do not belong to us but that they belong to God. Eating a healthy and balanced diet and taking part in some form of exercise will go a long way to helping us feel a lot better about ourselves and the world.
I hope that my experiences and these lessons will prove beneficial for you, maybe you have your own tools and techniques for dealing with ‘blue days’ if you do please share so that we can all be blessed.